Commitment to Public Participation
In last year’s Annual Report, staff highlighted the fact that the concept of autonomous vehicles is a reality that is rapidly advancing and more commonly referred to as AV. However, as the evolution of this latest technology charges forward, we cannot forget the human aspect.
OKI continues to view this rapid technological advance as a significant boost to civic engagement which, in turn, encourages public participation. However there are other concerns that, if properly addressed during the early stages of AV development, will enable all five of OKI’s Environmental Justice (EJ) population groups to truly feel valued.
The five EJ population groups in the OKI region include Low Income, Minority, Elderly, Persons with Disabilities and Zero-Car households. One common concern around AV technology is affordability. Many in the EJ community do not possess a bank account or have a credit card. Other concerns include:
- What kind of impact will AV have on public transportation, including physical access to/from AVs
- Privacy of information
- Accidents and other safety concerns
- Loss of equity due to privatization
- Displaced communities
- Lack of sensitivity and the marginalizing of Title VI, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and OAA (Older Americans Act)
These concerns and feedback may also provide an opportunity for the automotive industry to develop “an even better mousetrap.”
In addition, during the course of implementing its Work Program in 2017, OKI identified another opportunity for serving the transit needs of its EJ communities, especially the elderly and individuals with disabilities. The Southwest Ohio Transportation (SWOT) workgroup, of which OKI was a member, had dispersed due to the loss of funding for support staff. However the workgroup team members indicated a need for the workgroup to continue meeting and, with that, came the result of a new workgroup named the Tristate Transportation Equitable Opportunity Team (TTEOT). One of the first speakers to address the group in October 2017 was Dr. Rachel Tumin, Principal Investigator of Ohio Colleges of Medicine Government Resource Center (GRC) at The Ohio State University. Dr. Tumin presented the findings on her study of “Transportation Challenges for Ohioans with Disabilities.” Those findings indicate that obtaining safe, affordable, and appropriate transportation options can be very difficult for Ohioans with disabilities. Existing transportation options don’t always operate at the times or in the locations where they are needed, and often do not, or cannot, serve the diversity of disabilities present in the community. There are major scheduling challenges which result in long wait times for rides which, in turn, limits or prevents riders from participating in a variety of activities and inhibits their integration into their community.
There remains more work to identify and fill the gaps as we address the transit needs of OKI’s EJ population groups. Nonetheless, with the boundless possibilities due to the onset of autonomous vehicles and the consistent, compassionate work of support groups such as the Tristate Transportation Equitable Opportunity Team (TTEOT), OKI staff envisions an even better coordinated quality of life for everyone in our 8-county region.